Can the synaptic self have values and make choices?


Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Given that many in neuroscience believe all human experience will eventually be accounted for in terms of the activity of the brain, does the concept of values in education make sense? And, are we not headed for a singly deterministic notion of the self, devoid of even the possibility of making choices? One obvious objection is that this does not tally with our experience - we can espouse values and do make choices. But perhaps this is simply appearance and following MacIntyre, though for different reasons, the language of values and choices belongs to a previous age and is no longer sustainable. Moreover, the way in which we encounter other selves and account for their actions as moral agents is simply outdated. We need to begin to address others, including the children we teach, as synaptic selves and account for their actions as neuronally determined. This paper will argue that neuroscience need not lead to such pessimistic conclusions. On the contrary, it was the modern concept of the self, underpinned by a mechanistic and deterministic concept of science, which threatened to reduce our being to that of robots. Neuroscience can point the way out of this dilemma. Values in education not only make sense, they are more pivotal than hitherto imagined.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2004


Sankey, D. (2004, November). Can the synaptic self have values and make choices? Paper presented at the International Conference of Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia 2004: Education and Value, Melbourne, Victoria.


  • Development of Disciplinary Knowledge (e.g. Sociology, Psychology)


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